A New Way to Shop

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Having trouble finding time to get to the feed store to pick up supplies? Need an unusual item you just can’t find at the local saddle shop? Tired of driving 20 miles just to get a bottle of fly spray? If so, take heart. An easier, economical and more enjoyable way to get what you need for your horses is at your fingertips. It’s called the Internet.

Thanks to the ’Net and the World Wide Web, equine professionals no longer have to spend their precious time running from store to store looking for supplies. All it takes is a computer, the right software and an Internet connection to find and buy products without ever leaving your home or office.

Pros and Cons

Equine professionals have discovered many good reasons to buy their horse supplies on-line—convenience, variety and competitive pricing among them.

“I like shopping for horse products online because it’s easy, I can do it at any time of the day, and I feel very secure about putting my credit card onto a secure website,” says hunter/jumper trainer Susan Kellogg, owner of Kellogg Equestrian Academy in Costa Mesa, Calif. “I have been shopping on-line for years, and it’s very convenient. The products are sent right to my door, and I don’t have to go back to a store if they are out of stock on a product. I just wait until it shows up at my house.”

Variety is the primary attraction in on-line shopping for Elizabeth Schilling, DVM, an equine veterinarian with All Equine Veterinary Services in Riverside, Calif. “One of the benefits of shopping on the ’Net is I can find obscure items that are not available in most stores,” she says. “Smaller stores just don’t have the inventory, and large chains often won’t accommodate individual requests.”

Although the benefits tend to outweigh the pitfalls when it comes to online shopping, users do have some complaints about on-line purchasing.

“Buying locally can be faster,” says breeder Candace Brown, owner of Sapelo Appaloosas in Bristol, Ind. “Sometimes you need something now, not in three days. Plus, returns can be easier locally if you have a good relationship with the local places.”

Brown also notes that she has, on occasion, been unable to find a specific product on-line. “I sometimes don’t know exactly what the product might be called, or it’s an item that simply isn’t carried by the companies I’m familiar with,” she says.

Schilling finds that she enjoys the personal touch that comes with buying at a local tack store, something she doesn’t get when shopping on-line. “I’m old-fashioned enough to enjoy the personal contact of a small store, whose staff get to know me and anticipate my needs,” she says. “For example, two of my local stores both regularly find things for me in my preferred color, purple, that I didn’t even know I needed.

“Also, it can be difficult to tell the quality or suitability of some products when shopping online, which is also true for catalog shopping,” Schilling adds.

What’s Out There

If you are used to shopping for supplements, dewormers, tack and other equine supplies at a tack and feed store, you’ll be amazed at how much more variety you can find online. A host of web sites sell all these products and more, and because they don’t have the space restrictions suffered by brick-and-mortar retailers, they can offer a whole lot more variety.

“My on-line purchases are normally in the realm of health-related items,” says Brown. “I use Valley Vet (www.valleyvet.com) for vaccines because they have the items I use at prices and shipping times that work for me—and I’ve not had a single problem ordering or paying with a credit card through them,” she says. “Because I have several horses that have chronic conditions that respond well to herbal supplementation, I have become familiar with both Chamisa Ridge (www.chamisaridge.com) and Horseshoe Herbals (horseherbs.bigstep.com). Both of these companies have been wonderful about providing prompt and knowledgeable answers to my questions. In fact, Horseshoe Herbals has created special mixes for me to meet my specific needs and has done follow-ups on how things are working out. Both sites have been a breeze for ordering and shipping.”

While supplements and other health products are popular items for online purchasing among horse professionals, just about any item can be found on the Internet.

“I’ve bought fly-repellent products, saddle pads, sheets, tack cleaning stuff, a saddle, supplements and more,” says Kellogg. “I think the only thing I haven’t bought online is feed in the form of hay and grain.”

A primary reason for the ease of on-line shopping is that a number of the larger equine product websites are run by catalog retailers. For these suppliers, websites are just another way customers can order products they see first on paper. For customers, the ease of ordering products on-line instead of over the phone, or by mailing in an order form, makes shopping on the Internet the preferred way to go.

How To Shop

Many equine professionals visit several sites when shopping on-line for products. Others simply do general searches on the Internet using search engines, or head to auction sites.

When it comes to equine-specific on-line sites, Valley Vet, Stateline Tack, KV Vet, Jeffers Equine , Dover Saddlery, American Livestock Supply, Smartpak and United Vet Equine are among the favorites (see sidebar for web addresses). These sites sell a wide variety of products, including dietary supplements, dewormers, tack, stable supplies and riding apparel. Even with shipping and handling charges, these products are often less expensive when purchased through the on-line outlet than they would be at a store.

In addition to large sites that sell a vast array of products, the World Wide Web hosts a slew of specialized on-line stores featuring equine-related items. Sporttack.com sells items for trail and endurance riding, while Back In the Saddle (backinthesaddle.com) sells gifts and novelty items for horse lovers. Washoe Valley Farriers Supply (www.washoevalleyfarriers.com) sells products exclusively for farriers, and Westmall (www.westmall.com) offers strictly western apparel and tack.

A number of equine product manufacturers are also selling their products directly through websites.

One way to find these specialized sites is to visit an equine clearinghouse website such as Equisearch (www.nekesc.k12.ks.us/equi.html). Equisearch lists a number of different website addresses on its Internet pages and provides “hot links” to those sites, enabling users to go directly to those on-line stores with just a click of the mouse.

General search engines such as Google (www.google.com) and Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) are also good ways to locate just about any horse product you’d like to buy on the Internet. Searching these sites will help you garner a host of websites that offer the item(s) you are looking for.

On-line auctions are another popular way to purchase tack and can provide great bargains. Some of the best auction sites for purchasing (and selling) equine products are Ebay and Horse Net (see sidebar for web addresses). Professional horsemen can find bits, bridles, saddles, girths, and a variety of training equipment available at good prices—many sellers are happy just to get rid of whatever it is they are selling. Since both individual sellers and commercial retailers participate in on-line auctions, you’ll also be amazed at how much variety is available.

Although first-time users sometimes find on-line auctions intimidating, the process is relatively easy. The home page of each auction site provides a search field that enables you to list the type of product you are looking for. For example, typing the word “saddle” in the search field will unveil pages of saddles for sale. If a description piques your interest, you simply click on the product name. You’ll go to a page showing one or more photos of the product, along with the bidding history and a more detailed description of the item. If you want to bid, you create an account with the auction site that includes your contact info. You can then bid on an item as often as you like until the auction is over.

By offering convenience, speed, variety and competitive pricing, on-line shopping for horse products is a great way for busy horse professionals to get what they need.

Where to Go

The following sites offer a variety of horse products, from bits to blankets: